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Three Winning Strategies for NaNoWriMo

Are you ready to start and finish a novel in November? If so, we have some tips on easing your way to a win.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, first began in 1999. The challenge quickly became internet famous with writers from all over the world taking part. In 2022, 413,295 writers from around the world participated in the nonprofit’s writing programmes and challenges across the year. 

But back to the main event: the challenge starts every year on November 1st and ends on November 30th, and the objective is simple: write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not an easy task but an absolutely possible one.

Why Take Part in NaNoWriMo?

If you’re ready to finally stop procrastinating and write your novel, NaNoWriMo could be the dose of high intensity endurance training your creative brain needs.

While NaNoWriMo is designed for you to start and finish a novel around the length of books like Sula by Toni Morrison, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, writers use the challenge for a variety of writing goals. 

You could use the month of November to:

● plan a trilogy of epic fantasy novels, then write the first part

● finally finish a novel draft you’ve been tinkering with for years

● produce the first draft of your memoir or nonfiction book

You can personalise NaNoWriMo to your specific goal, no matter what it is. What works like magic about this challenge is it holds you accountable to a structured routine and a daily target. 

But there's more - NaNoWriMo also has a global online community where you can join groups, make friends and find encouragement. You can connect with other writers in-person at local meetups. You can hone your craft by creating a daily writing habit and push yourself to produce a substantial piece of writing in a short timeframe. And come December 1st, you’ll have some serious bragging rights.


How to Win NaNoWriMo

Let’s get into the 3 strategies you can use to help you start and finish this challenge.

1.   Get prepared even if you’re a pantser

In the runup to November 1st, do your prep and develop your story idea. Whether you’re a plotter (someone who maps out their story in detail before they start writing) or a pantser (someone who does little to no planning and flies by the seat of their pants), this will be a great help to your writing process. 

You can use Scrivener's extended trial and NaNoWriMo template to collate your notes, create character profiles or use the Binder feature to plot out scenes, chapters or the whole novel. Whether you like to flesh out all the details or simply have a loose outline, creating a clear path forward will give you a headstart when the writing challenge starts and hopefully save you from agonising over a blank page come November 1st.

You should also use your prep time to plan your writing routine. Consider when, where and how you like to write. Think about the circumstances that allow you to be the most productive. If you have a full-time job and a stack of responsibilities, you might like to write first thing in the morning before the rest of your household wakes up. Or perhaps carving out an hour or two later in the evening will work best for you.

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, create a writing schedule to work around your life and be strict about sticking with it. 

2.   Find a NaNoWriMo cheerleader to write with

Let’s face it: writing can be lonely. You can start off with the best intentions and lofty goals. But if you’re working alone and not sharing your progress or challenges with anyone else, it’s easier to talk yourself into giving up altogether when it gets difficult. 

NaNoWriMo can fill writers with dread. It’s a big, daunting task and nobody else can do the work for you. But you can find an abundance of encouragement, sustained motivation and support from another writer.

If you have an IRL friend also doing NaNoWriMo this year, make a plan to check in with each other regularly. You could even meet up with them in-person once a week to do writing sprints together. 

If you don’t personally know anyone embarking on the challenge, make an internet friend! Find someone in a NaNoWriMo group or online writing community and work with them to hold each other accountable. You can hold co-writing sessions over video calls, send each other voice notes on how each writing session is going, and talk each other through those crisis moments where the target seems impossible.

3.   Turn the words into a numbers game

50,000 words in 30 days is a huge target to shoot for. And fixating on the big number may not set you up for success.

Instead of looking up at the summit, focus on the steps in front of you. Spread over the full 30 days, the daily goal for NaNoWriMo is 1,667 words. Thinking only of the daily goal will help you break down the seemingly impossible task into small, manageable chunks. And when you finish each writing session and log it on your NaNoWriMo word counter, you’ll get fresh motivation every day to keep going.

If you know there are some days in November where you can’t or simply don’t want to write (birthdays, special events, weekend breaks, etc.), you can create a schedule that allows you to have some writing-free days throughout the month. 

Here are some more strategies:

●      On those days where the words are flowing, allow yourself to go over your daily goal to give yourself a head start the next day. This will work in your favour on those days where writing feels like a slog.

●      If you can easily write a few thousand words in one sitting and you want some breaks during NaNoWriMo, write 2,273 words per weekday and take the weekends off.

However works best for you, find ways to segment the overarching goal into achievable baby steps.

Finally, whether this is your first time taking part in NanoWriMo or you’re a seasoned pro, tell yourself you can win. 51,670 writers did it in 2022. There’s nothing stopping you from being a winner this year and walking away with a full or partial first draft of your novel.  Good luck!

Sophie Campbell is a fiction writer and freelance creative copywriter and content writer. You can find her on InstagramTwitterLinkedIn and her website.


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